Merriment bubbles through the fairgrounds in Palmer

Kaylin Bettinger
Anthony Sheppard demos the bubble gun at the 2010 Alaska State Fair on Friday August 3, 2010 in Palmer, AK.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Annabella Benson and her mom Breana Benson at the 2010 Alaska State Fair on Friday August 3, 2010 in Palmer, AK.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Olympic skier Holly Brooks talks with fans at the 2010 Alaska State Fair on Friday August 3, 2010 in Palmer, AK.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Anthony Sheppard demos the bubble gun at the 2010 Alaska State Fair on Friday August 3, 2010 in Palmer, AK.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
The 2010 Alaska State Fair on Friday August 3, 2010 in Palmer, AK.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
The 2010 Alaska State Fair on Friday August 3, 2010 in Palmer, AK.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Olympic skier Kikkan Randall visits with Caleb Mix and his mom Kathryn Mix at the 2010 Alaska State Fair on Friday August 3, 2010 in Palmer, AK.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Equestrian Arts perform at the 2010 Alaska State Fair on Friday August 3, 2010 in Palmer, AK.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
The 2010 Alaska State Fair on Friday August 3, 2010 in Palmer, AK.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Samantha Risch shoots her bubble gun at the 2010 Alaska State Fair on Friday August 3, 2010 in Palmer, AK.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
The 2010 Alaska State Fair on Friday August 3, 2010 in Palmer, AK.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
The 2010 Alaska State Fair on Friday August 3, 2010 in Palmer, AK.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Lauren Dorris, 5 years old, waves from the swing ride to family at the 2010 Alaska State Fair on Friday September 3, 2010 in Palmer, AK.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Abigail Hahn, her mother Tiffany Hahn and brother Payton Hahn look at the chick incubator at the 2010 Alaska State Fair on Friday September 3, 2010 in Palmer, AK.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
The 2010 Alaska State Fair on Friday August 3, 2010 in Palmer, AK.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Equestrian Arts perform at the 2010 Alaska State Fair on Friday August 3, 2010 in Palmer, AK.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Samantha Risch shoots her bubble gun at the 2010 Alaska State Fair on Friday August 3, 2010 in Palmer, AK.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Dale Marshall, left, of Anchorage set a new state record for his giant pumpkin entry at the Alaska State Fair on Wednesday, September 1, 2010. His weighed in at 1,101 pounds. Gidget Sanders, right, an Alaska Weights and Measures inspector, weighs the entry.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News
McKenzie Miller takes a coffee order at the Kaladi Brothers stand at the 2010 Alaska State Fair on Friday August 3, 2010 in Palmer, AK.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Alaska Grown is one of the big themes of the Alaska State Fair.
Richard J. Murphy / Anchorage Daily News
Fair goers watch the fireworks display at the Alaska State Fair grounds in Palmer on Friday, Aug. 29, 2010.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
The Alaska State Fair drew a crowd on Saturday, August 28, 2010, despite rain throughout the day.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News
Keith King of the King BMX Stunt Show entertains the crowd with his flat land riding skills on opening day of the Alaska Sate Fair in Palmer on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Chloe Arntz, 3, of Chugiak, Alaska, gets a look at an entry in the Alaska State Fair giant pumpkin weigh-off. This entry by Dale Marshall of Anchorage set a new state record in the category. An Alaska Weights and Measures inspector recorded 1,101 pounds on Wednesday, September 1, 2010.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News
Opening day of the Alaska Sate Fair in Palmer on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Fred Scheer's Lumberjack Show is one of the highlights of the Alaska State Fair. Lumberjack Dave Sievert, 20, preps for the log climb, one of the competitions at the show Friday morning. It took Sievert just seconds to climb the log, but he narrowly lost to fellow lumberjack Charlie Fenton, 20.
KAYLIN BETTINGER / Anchorage Daily News
Samantha Risch and Jamie Risch at the 2010 Alaska State Fair on Friday August 3, 2010 in Palmer, AK.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Opening day of the Alaska Sate Fair in Palmer on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Opening day of the Alaska Sate Fair in Palmer on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Opening day of the Alaska Sate Fair in Palmer on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Opening day of the Alaska Sate Fair in Palmer on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Fireworks burst over the Alaska State Fair on Friday night, August 27,
Richard J. Murphy / Anchorage Daily News
Opening day of the Alaska Sate Fair in Palmer on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
GCI Petting Zoo on opening day of the Alaska Sate Fair in Palmer on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Jared Ward of the King BMX Stunt Show entertains the crowd on opening day of the Alaska Sate Fair in Palmer on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010.Opening day of the Alaska Sate Fair in Palmer on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Johnny Deadwyler of the King BMX Stunt Show entertains the crowd on opening day of the Alaska Sate Fair in Palmer on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Fireworks light up the sky above the Alaska State Fair on Friday night, August 27,
Richard J. Murphy / Anchorage Daily News
Opening day of the Alaska Sate Fair in Palmer on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
The GCI Petting Zoo was a popular location on opening day of the Alaska Sate Fair in Palmer on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Opening day of the Alaska Sate Fair in Palmer on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Opening day of the Alaska Sate Fair in Palmer on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Earl Hunter of Las Vegas got his mohawk spiked and colored on opening day of the Alaska Sate Fair in Palmer on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Lani Diaz swirls cotton candy on opening day at the Alaska Sate Fair in Palmer on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Ruby Miles photographs her granddaughter Jenna Byers, 7, standing behind a tractor cut out on opening day of the Alaska Sate Fair in Palmer on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
The Miracle Drummers and Dancers performed Yup'ik dances at the Colony Stage on Opening day of the Alaska Sate Fair in Palmer on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Opening day of the Alaska Sate Fair in Palmer on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
902-lb pumpkin on opening day of the Alaska Sate Fair in Palmer on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Fred Scheer's Lumberjack Show is one of the highlights of the Alaska State Fair. Lumberjack Shane Sabit, 21, holds the rabbit he just carved with a chain saw during the morning show on Friday. Announcer Will Hoeschler, 19, looks on in the background.
KAYLIN BETTINGER / Anchorage Daily News
Opening day of the Alaska Sate Fair in Palmer on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Opening day of the Alaska Sate Fair in Palmer on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Kenai Senior Center Swinging Golden Girls performed on opening day of the Alaska Sate Fair in Palmer on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Wayne Grieme sets up his Professional Portrait Buttons booth at the Alaska State Fair. He's been operating the photo booth for 28 years at the State Fair. The Alaska State Fair begins Thursday, August 26, 2010, and runs through September 6 in Palmer.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News
Johnny Deadwyler of the King BMX Stunt Show entertains the crowd on opening day of the Alaska Sate Fair in Palmer on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Opening day of the Alaska Sate Fair in Palmer on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Karena King of the Miracle Drummers and Dancers performs a Yup'ik dance at the Colony Stage on opening day of the Alaska Sate Fair in Palmer on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Opening day of the Alaska Sate Fair in Palmer on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Lily Kerr, 2, gets a close look at a goat in the GCI Petting Zoo on opening day of the Alaska Sate Fair in Palmer on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Opening day of the Alaska Sate Fair in Palmer on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Opening day of the Alaska Sate Fair in Palmer on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Opening day of the Alaska Sate Fair in Palmer on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Harry Young, of Eagle River, puts a shine on his 1935 John Deere Model D in the barn at the Alaska State Fair. The Alaska State Fair begins Thursday, August 26, 2010, and runs through September 6 in Palmer.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News
John Baum drives his 1939 Sears and Roebuck tractor to its display space in the Alaska State Fair barn. The Alaska State Fair begins Thursday, August 26, 2010, and runs through September 6 in Palmer.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News
Alaska State Fair poultry judge Phyllis Burney, right, examines a Rhode Island Red cock in the barn at the Alaska State Fair on Wednesday, August 25, 2010, in advance of the fair's opening day. Stacy Barnhart records the bird's scores. The Alaska State Fair begins Thursday, August 26, 2010, and runs through September 6 in Palmer.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News
Opening day of the Alaska Sate Fair in Palmer on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Judy Gannaway of Chugiak is originally from Iowa and said she always gets corn at the state fair because "it's a little taste from home." Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Elias Haroldsen, 5, played hooky from school and got his face painted like a tiger on opening day at the Alaska Sate Fair in Palmer on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
John Baum parks his 1939 Sears and Roebuck tractor in the Alaska State Fair barn.The Alaska State Fair begins Thursday, August 26, 2010, and runs through September 6 in Palmer.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News
People flocked the Alaska Sate Fair grounds in Palmer on opening day Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010. View is from the Century Wheel looking towards Matanuska Peak.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Byron Conoley sets up the Fool the Guesser booth at the Alaska State Fair. The Alaska State Fair begins Thursday, August 26, 2010, and runs through September 6 in Palmer.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News
Luke Afcan of the Miracle Drummers and Dancers performs a Yup'ik dance at the Colony Stage on opening day of the Alaska Sate Fair in Palmer on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Opening day of the Alaska Sate Fair in Palmer on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Anna Van Diest, 10, left, and Tammy Allen work to prepare the T&T Refreshments stand at the Alaska State Fair on Wednesday, August 25, 2010. The Alaska State Fair begins Thursday, August 26, 2010, and runs through September 6 in Palmer.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News
Opening day of the Alaska Sate Fair in Palmer on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Robert Schmidt, 7, and Gabe Crowdus, 9, examine a Triple D Farm and Hatchery egg hatching exhibit in the barn at the Alaska State Fair on Wednesday, August 25, 2010. The Alaska State Fair begins Thursday, August 26, 2010, and runs through September 6 in Palmer.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News
Opening day of the Alaska Sate Fair in Palmer on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Opening day of the Alaska Sate Fair in Palmer on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
A three-month-old thorn thighed tortoise is briefly displayed on the back of its mother in the reptile exhibit in the Don Sheldon building at the Alaska State Fair. The Alaska State Fair begins Thursday, August 26, 2010, and runs through September 6 in Palmer.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News
Deb Stotts, left, and Katie Childs, both of Job Corps, set up a 4H crafts display on Wednesday at the State Fair. The Alaska State Fair begins Thursday, August 26, 2010, and runs through September 6 in Palmer.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News

PALMER -- Ventriloquist Michael Harrison held a puppet on his hand at the Bluebonnet Stage at the Alaska State Fair. What had the audience -- more than 100 people from small kids to grandparents -- laughing?

A wedgy joke.

And I admit, it was funny. Harrison, 45, has three routines during the show, and about seven puppets, one of which was a volunteer audience member named James. When James opened his mouth, a high-pitched voice pierced the silence, followed by giggles.

"That's a little voice for a big man," Harrison made the puppet respond.

Harrison began his performing career doing magic when he was 10. Soon after, he got into ventriloquism and has been performing around the world for the last 25 years, at fairs, on cruise ships, at festivals and at corporate events.

He said there is a learning curve in ventriloquism but one of the biggest challenges is developing a personality for the characters.

"You have to really sell the personality," he told an audience member after the show.

Another puppet, Shotgun Red, "the world's smallest country singer," is part of the act with Steve Hall and his band, playing at 1, 3 and 5 p.m. daily on the Colony Stage. One of his bits includes running down car brands by the letters of their names -- not just the famous jokes about the real meaning of "Ford" and "Chevy," but foreign models, as in:

"FIAT? Fix it again, Tony."

"KIA? Keep it in Asia."

"SUBARU? That's easy, just read it backwards: U R A BUS."

Spray me!

Charles Oakley has been making a living doing fine art for more than 20 years. But last year, he discovered a medium he'd never tried before.

Spray paint.

This year, he is the man sitting behind the spray paint table at the booth labeled "Yo! Spray Me!"

Most of the time, the humpback whales or sunset scenes he paints are done on paper. But Oakley doesn't discriminate against creative requests.

For one of the members of the BMX Stunt Team that performs outside Oakley's booth, he painted an Alaska mountain scene on his helmet. He painted a similar scene on a snowboard last week. Thursday he did a truck tailgate.

And it takes him just a few minutes to paint the scenes.

The most important part of the equation to Oakley? Almost half of his spray paint comes used from the Anchorage Hazardous Waste Collection Center -- for free. In the next five years he'd like to expand his business to raise awareness about the environment.

PAINTED FACES

Lucy Vang, 18, sat in a chair at Clown Around Face Art, getting her face painted. This is the second year she has sprung for a Garfield on her cheek.

"I like the fun choices of face paint here," she said.

After 20 years of painting faces at the fair, Cathy Doores, one of the owners of the booth, does have a lot of choices for kids. Photos of more than 100 paint options line the walls of the booth that she runs with her sister, Carrie Doores.

When Doores was 16, she started doing hair at the booth and moved into face painting when she was 19.

"I grew up with this," she said.

FREEBIES

The fair can be expensive, but Dean Phipps, marketing director, said this year more events than ever are included with admission.

I visited the fair earlier this week with two boys, Conor and Quinn Janigo. We grabbed a bag of kettle corn for $4, more than enough for the three of us, and checked out some free events while we munched. The boys were enthralled by the stunts at the BMX bike show, with bikers who have competed in the X Games. They also enjoyed the Fred Scheer's Lumberjack Show. Quinn got a wood chip from one of the logs signed by the lumberjacks after the show -- a free souvenir.

Other exciting freebies? The Birdman of Las Vegas does five exotic bird shows per day in the Pebble Corral. And Brad's World Reptiles, Wild and Dangerous Desert, is open in the Creation Station all day every day, complete with animals from José the alligator to tiny turtles.

Find Kaylin Bettinger online at adn.com/contact/kbettinger or call her at 257-4349.

Photos: Alaska State Fair
Post your photos from the fair
More state fair coverage
By KAYLIN BETTINGER
kbettinger@adn.com